Ten things volunteers should know about equalities

1. Equalities – know your host organisations policy

Equality, diversity, and human rights are important to everyone and we all have a role to play to make sure that services are accessible and that everyone has a positive and inclusive experience.

Your host organisation will have its own distinctive approach to this and should give you advice and guidance - if in doubt, just ask.

2. People are different: embrace diversity

We are all different and embracing diversity allows for a wider range of experiences and a broader range of views – all of which promotes better decisions and more innovation. Ensure that your volunteering is inclusive and promotes equality for everyone - recognise that everyone is different and everyone has a right to equal access and fair treament.

3. Treat everyone with dignity and respect

You should always show dignity and respect to those you are supporting – even when your own personal views might not align: we all make decisions based on our own thoughts and beliefs. Someone may have different beliefs: you still need to treat them equally to others. Equal treatment does not mean that everyone is treated the same: it means that everyone receives treatment and consideration appropriate to their needs and expectations.

4. Equalities Act and protected characteristics

​It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of:

  • age

  • gender reassignment

  • being married or in a civil partnership

  • being pregnant or on maternity leave

  • disability

  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin

  • religion or belief

  • sex

  • sexual orientation

5. Carers

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal to discriminate against a carer because of their caring responsibilities or because of the individual(s) they care for.

6. Particular communication needs

Under the Equalities Act (2010), an organisation is required to make “reasonable adjustments” for disabled people to avoid disadvantage - this includes making information available in an accessible format for volunteers and service users.

7. Access to services

Except in specific circumstances, services should be equally accessible to everyone. Your host organisation will explain its approach to achieving this including through policies and procedures, translating documents, providing aids, or making reasonable adjustments.


8. Listen and respond

People will have different needs and expectations. Keep an open mind, listen to understand people’s needs, and try to respond positively. If you encounter a difficult situation, make a short note and raise it with your host organisation. Follow any guidance or advice they give. If you are unhappy about the guidance, talk again to your host organisation.


9. No toleration of prejudice

If you cannot operate within your host organisation’s equalities policy, then you should consider moving elsewhere. If you think your host organisation is acting illegally, try to raise your concerns through the organisation’s internal procedures.


10. Raising concerns

In the first instance, always raise any concerns with your host organisation. They should have a process in place for this. If you are unable to resolve concerns in this way, you may want to consult guidance from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and if you think a crime has been committed, contact the Police on 101 or 999.